I could see peace instead of this.
This is one of my favorite lessons in the ACIM workbook. I truly believe that it encapsulates several core ideas that are essential to practicing A Course in Miracles. We are the one with Love. We remember and extend Love by choosing to think differently. Changing our thoughts changes what we see and the result is peace.
That’s A Course in Miracles in a nutshell.
I spent the night in a hospital. I arrived late, after a long day, and I stayed up for about nine hours sitting by my father’s bed. I hate hospitals. They make me feel powerless. They’re like bland bureaucracies with the power of life and death. I feel depersonalized and threatened when I am in them. And that’s on top of worrying about Dad.
I generally respond to fear with rage-like fantasies that are alternately scary, embarrassing and silly. It’s like part of my mind has to compensate for the fear and to do so by doubling down on the fundamental conflict. It’s crazy. It helps nothing and nobody.
So I want to do better than that. My father needs me and I do not help anybody – not my father, not myself, not my siblings or mother, not the dedicated staff – if I am crazy and sullen and paranoid.
Lesson 34 was a beautiful and helpful – in part because it was also frustrating – antidote.
I began practicing at about 3 a.m. while my father slept. The room was tiny and the chair was hard but it was a fine and mellow meditation. I read the lesson by the light of my cell phone, then closed my eyes. I found that my mind followed the previous lessons – I am not the victim of the world I see because I have invented the world I see and there is another way of looking at the world – which naturally evoked “I could see peace instead of this.”
Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts, and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful interpretation of the world arises (W-pI.34.1:2-4).
And, indeed, this was how it functioned.
Perhaps because it was quiet and dark, perhaps because it was an unusual and intense situation, but I “broke” the lesson’s suggestion that I focus on my thoughts. I fully recognize and accept that peace is an inside job, an internal matter, the external world merely reflecting an interior decision. But when those five minutes were over I opened my eyes and kept going. I’d look at the hospital bed. I could see peace instead of this. The cord you yank to call the nurses? I could see peace instead of this. The concrete garage blocking my view out the window? I could see peace instead of this.
This is an example of allowing ourselves to meet A Course in Miracles where we are.
I applied it to sounds. That beeping from the saline drip? I could see peace instead of this. The snoring two doors down? I could see peace instead of this. The doctor telling a joke?
I could see peace instead of this.
And slowly I began to see peace. And – more than that – realize that peace was what I’d been seeing all along. I’d walked into that hospital fully expecting the worst but ready to be okay with it. This is going to suck, Jesus, and we both know it, but let’s get it done. And at first – for a quick couple of minutes – it did suck. All the doors were locked. But then this guy – who knows what he was doing sitting in a dark car with his window open – directed me to the one door that was open. The don’t-mess-with-me security officer at the front desk? Asked about the weather before directing me upstairs. The nurse who I thought was going to demand I leave because “visiting hours” were over? She brought me a pillow and a blanket.
Every turn – whatever happened – the worst turned out to be okay. No, it was better than okay. And then, at some point during my Lesson 34 mumbles, maybe around the time the sun was starting to rise, it hit me. Things were okay because I was okay. That willingness at the beginning meant I was bringing my will into alignment with God’s will. And even though that didn’t pacify the ego – hence the ongoing fear – it did open something deeper, something beyond the ego’s reach. I experienced love and safety at each turn because I am love and safety. No me as in Sean, you understand. Me as in you and me. And you and me as in God, as Love itself.
This was a sort of peaceful recognition. I was exhausted – sleep-deprived – strung out on bad coffee – worried about how the rest of the day was going to pan out. No light shows. No dulcet voices. Just a sweet warm sense of peace. I’m okay. It’s okay. When we are willing to act as if we are not ego – when we are willing to be miracle workers even though we doubt the assignment – we are unified and in union we are pacified. Maybe it’s Jesus. Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit.
And maybe God is Love and as God’s creations, we too are Love.
This post is deeply autobiographical. We experience the course in the context of our lives in the world; we aren’t monks and nuns doing the lessons in isolation. We are embodied in the world and the lessons are the means – in that body in that world – by which we learn the truth of what we are.